What part does Cherita Chen play in the film? Why does Donnie put on Cherita's ear muffs?

from Movie FAQ – Donnie Darko on Rap Genius

Meaning

Donnie empathizes with her character and feels a connection to Chen because he too is an outcast. The director mentions that Cherita Chen is getting verbally abused and that this is why she starts wearing the earmuffs.

He also mentions that she acts as a catalyst for Donnie to realise who he really is, understand what his personal views are and what he must do.

Her interactions with Donnie give us further insight into his character. Chen also likes Donnie Darko and has been keeping track of him at times thus being used as the eyes and ears of the beings of the future on Donnie’s activities.

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